Facing Christ at the Bema Seat
by Gil Rugh
A day is coming when all who have trusted in Jesus’s death and resurrection will stand before the Bema Seat of Christ to be judged. The Greek word “bema” is usually used to describe a raised platform on which the judge sat during judicial proceedings and from which he pronounced the verdict. It can also refer to the judgment seat itself. Everyone at the Bema Seat judgment will be a believer, saved from the penalty for sin, so there is no punishment involved in this judgment. The focus will be on rewards, and each believer will be rewarded on the basis of works that he or she did for God’s glory.
If any man’s work which he has built on it remains, he will receive a reward. If any man’s work is burned up, he shall suffer loss; but he himself shall be saved, yet so as through fire (1 Cor. 3:14, 15).
Paul emphasized each believer’s personal accountability: “So then each one of us shall give account of himself to God” (Rom. 14:12).
The rewards that God offers at the Bema Seat are directly related to the faithfulness of believers in functioning as He has instructed. This means that not every believer will receive the same level of rewards. Although no believers will be punished or condemned for their deeds, some will receive lesser rewards than others who were more faithful. This should motivate our conduct. Paul wrote:
Therefore also we have as our ambition, whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to Him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad (2 Cor. 5:9, 10).
Paul’s goal was to be pleasing to Christ, whether at home (living in his physical body) or absent (having died and leaving his physical body).
The apostle also encouraged the Philippians “to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ” (Phil. 1:10).
“The day of Christ” is when Jesus will come in the air to bring His Church into His presence. The Bema Seat judgment will take place at this time, and all who have believed in Christ for salvation will stand before God to give an account of their lives on earth.
Jesus will come again—and it will be when we least expect it. Until then, may we be sincere, blameless, and living in light of His coming. We will all stand before Him one day to give an account and receive rewards. This should greatly motivate us to live godly lives.